Metaphyshical Music

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

If “Backwards Down the Number Line” represented the joy and exaltation of Phish’s return this summer, “Light” has now become the band’s philosophical statement and their most significant new jam vehicle. Emerging as a central piece of Phish’s musical evolution this fall,”Light” not only pushed the limits of the band’s improv, but carries strong lyrical meaning as well. Rife in Buddhist allusion, Trey speaks of separating from one’s thoughts, the divine within us all, and embracing the shining possibilities of the moment.

I see the future is less and less there / and the past has vanished in the air. / I’m left in the now with a wondrous glow / I think I’m still me, but how would you know?

These lyrics, while describing Trey’s personal journey, could be read as a metaphor for Phish coming to grips with their new musical persona. Firmly planted in the moment, the band seems less concerned with the future than ever, and have consciously distanced themselves from a troubled past. But this process has led to a bit of a musical identity crisis; although they feel great playing, and that is certainly most important, just where they are headed remains undefined. But each time Phish takes the stage, their happiness and their inner light fuels the power of the moment. In a vocal round likening a group affirmation, the band sings:

And the light is burning brighter now (Obstacles are stepping stones) / And the light is burning brighter now (That guide us to our goal) / And the light is burning brighter now (fences are filters) / And the light is burning brighter now (That purify our souls)

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

As the versions of “Light” built throughout this fall, its musical platform began to infuse a new sound into the band’s improv. Beginning in Cincinnati, the band segued into “Light” from “Tweezer’s” gnarling fifteen-minute excursion in groove. Combining their classic vehicle with their newest launchpad (a segue the band has favored since its Fenway debut) Phish upped the ante with the first indoor version of “Light.” Cranking the intensity level to eleven, the band elevated the intensity and potential for the song during it’s first fall outing. With a small dose of cathartic exploration, the band began to hint at new direction – then promptly segued out of the song.

Skipping the next few shows, “Light” emerged in the bizarre position of first set-closer on Albany’s first night. The song’s first and only stand-alone version seemed oddly placed, but the version certainly built upon Cincy’s succinct outing. Morphing into a deep-space ambient excursion for nearly three minutes, Fishman began a drone beat that would have pushed the band into a truly engaging plane. But as soon as he kicked in with this rhythm, Trey called for setbreak. While not an incredibly compelling version, Albany’s jaunt illustrated Phish’s willingness to take the song to far out places, following their summer statements at Bonnaroo and The Gorge.

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

But the final three versions of tour, all played in relative proximity, unearthed some of the deepest jams of the fall. Broken out in the second set of Portland as the only exploratory piece in the frame, the band took a bold step outwards with this run-through. In the first far-reaching version of the tour, Phish got into some full, albeit brief, type-II playing that moved from the uplifting into hard groove, landing in a pool of amorphous jamming. This exploration seemed to re-awaken Phish to “Light’s'” interstellar abilities, and they obviously liked what they heard, featuring the song in two of their final four shows. These subsequent versions at MSG and Charlottesville would build upon Cumberland County’s centerpiece, leaving us with two of the most compelling musical segments of tour.

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

Phish showcased “Light” in their very next show as the unquestionable jam of the night, using the piece to kick off a three-day New York affair. Once again, crafting a magnificent highlight, this jam suggested a new improvisational direction. Combining ferocious playing with an experimental milieu, the entire band pushed each other into the most significant jam played over The Garden’s three nights. Transcending the song’s emotional build quickly, Phish turned to hard-nose textures, entering creative, type-II territory for the duration. Led by abstract bass offerings, Trey played quicker rhythm licks over a poly-rhythmic beat and Page’s piano leads, turning this into an original piece of art. Changing to more melodic offerings, Trey brought a spiritual element to a jam, which at this point, has gathered a momentum and life of its own; one of those living, breathing musical organisms. Entering into a driving, yet abstract, exploration, Phish organically immersed themselves in IT. Adding some snarling licks and themes to the mix, Trey led the band into a new-sounding piece of music that continued to grow. Fishman and Mike locked into a intricate rhythm that provided a complex backdrop, allowing Page and Trey to actively create an engaging, interwoven top half. The most successful and exploratory jam  of tour besides Albany’s “Seven Below > Ghost,” this version of “Light” arguably highlights the song’s young life.

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

The final fall rendition of the song came in the tour’s final show, and the third-ever combination of “Tweezer > Light.” This time, Phish blended their swampy dance odyssey, rather abruptly, with their newest standout, as Trey’s eagerness to get into “Light” took over. But when they got there, another ethereal journey materialized, this time moving into some of the most psychedelic textures we have heard in this era. Without a morsel of hesitation, the band soared into one of the song’s most creative outings. Evolving into an eerie spacescape painted with groove and melody, they passed through a segment that strongly suggested “Dave’s Energy Guide.” Between New York’s excursion and Charlottesville’s abstract mind-fuck, the band left no doubt that about their current experimental focus lies in “Light.”

As Phish winds down their comeback year and will continue to forge a path into an unknown future, one can surmise that their music will evolve into places we haven’t yet imagined. Using 2009 to set a foundation for what lies ahead, the band has given us  recent glimpses into new improvisational realms through the lens of their newest jam vehicle. If the playing that has characterized “Light” throughout the fall is any indication of future endeavors, this song holds many a musical pilgrimage in store.


Jams of the Day:

Light > Slave” 12.2


Tweezer > Light” 12.5


Fall’s two peak versions of “Light” came in powerful improvisational combos.



12.5.09 John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA < Torrent

12.5.09 John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA < Megaupload

John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA

John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA

I: AC/DC Bag, Chalkdust Torture, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Ya Mar, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley, Old Home Place, Cavern, Funky Bitch, David Bowie, The Wedge, Bold as Love

II: Tweezer > Light > Piper > Free, Sweet Virginia, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, Run Like An Antelope

E: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise

Source: (FOB) Neumann ak43’s (nos) > lc3 > km100 > V3 > 722 > @24/48

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805 Responses to “Metaphyshical Music”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    my biggest problem with hip hop is talk about “bitches”

    I’m not down with that shit

    the band playing along with “99 Problems” (“…but a bitch ain’t one”) doesn’t work for me

    but I’m sure it was fun, not hatin’, just not my thing

  2. She Divides Says:

    @HH and Neemor…doesn’t the holiday card also have to have everyone in zebra snuggies?

    also, thanks to whoever posted the link to change your avatar earlier…I think I uploaded one…

  3. cal Says:

    Mr. C: You lost me. Biggie, like Kanye, couldn’t rap. A gigantic presence to be sure, but the dude had marbles in his mouth.

  4. cal Says:

    …and I believe Biggie may have mentioned “bitches” once or twice.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    @stitchstash- i was at the Coney Island Jay Z/ Phish thing. Pretty much a dumb stunt IMO. Would much rather have heard 2 more Phish songs. The locals working the concession stands really loved it though. You could see all of them on their cells calling their friends. I was in the stands that night, so i could see those on the field.
    Was entertaining for about 2 minutes. Knowing that it was going to be my last Phish show ever(they had announced prior to CI about the break-up), i couldn’t help but be dissappointed at the time.

  6. gus Says:

    @cal – wow. i have disagree with you big time on that one. I think, although his messages are so vulgar and crude and whatnot, that biggie is such a great rapper. he just has incredible flow, and his rhymes are incredible. yes, sometimes it sounds like he’s yelling into the microphone from a distance, but still so sick. but i appreciate your opinion.

  7. SillyWilly Says:


    i wish my car used trash instead of gas. it would save me money…and make my apartment a lot cleaner.

  8. stitchstash Says:

    I understand completely Mr. completely. I only want to be called a bitch if there’s a funky in front of it.

    Nice picture SheDivides. Where was this link you speak of?

  9. Selector J Says:

    The Jay-Z appearance was definitely more of a stunt than anything else but it sure as hell was unexpected and that’s what Phish has always been about.

    Being in Brooklyn… I think it worked well enough. And from what I understand, Jay-Z just came to see what the hell was going on. Had never heard of Phish. Thought it was pretty cool. And Phish, being the laid back dudes they are, asked him if he wanted to do a couple songs. And Jigga said, “Absolutely.” Just knowing that situation occurred makes it great.

  10. She Divides Says:

    @ stitch….the link is
    You sign up and upload a picture, not sure exactly how it works, I think if you use your same email to sign up and to log in here, it picks up your avatar.
    Also apparently you should press ctrl-f5 on this site before you repost with your new avatar.
    I’m sure a bunch of people here know more about this than I do…

  11. neemor Says:

    “@voopa, drop by PDX and I will get you so high you will think Seven Below was played instrumental.”

    My favorite Mr. C line of the week.

  12. halcyon Says:

    My Hip Hip list includes…Outkast, Tribe, De La Soul, Common, Pete Rock CL Smooth, People Under The Stairs, Aceyalone, Run DMC, Del, Hieroglyphics, Souls of Mischief, EPMD (met them a long time ago), Eric B and Rakim (met them too ages ago), Foreign Exchange, Madlib, DOOM, Mos Def, Pharcyde, Roots, Talib Kweli, and a few others…..

    There are some other artists, but what has set these cats apart is their creativity, and uniqueness to their craft. I don’t spin them all the time, but love it when I do. Grew up listening to the native tongue posse, one of the best eras in hip hop ever.

  13. stitchstash Says:

    Mr Palmer, The great thing about those shows is that you may have never seen JZ in concert at any other time in your life otherwise. I once went to a Garth Brooks concert with a friend and her family. Not a life changing experience, but enriching none the less, as only a Garth Brooks concert could be. Funny how JZ is probably the biggest grossing entertainer in the music industry and people who don’t like hip hop could care less for him. Just as I could have cared less about Garth Brooks, and others who don’t like “jam bands” could care less about Phish. It makes me love Phish that much more for stepping out of the box……and putting JOY in it, by playing with artists from all differnt types of genres of music.

  14. Holger Dansk Says:

    Haven’t read through the last few pages of posts here, but listening to C’ville Free I’m reminded the late jam had me singing “Eminence Front” by The Who – was a spot on rip from that song.

  15. Selector J Says:

    I like that list Halcyon.

    Rakim came through Austin not too long ago. Our radio station was doing ticket giveaways for the show and I heard multiple DJs call him ‘Rah-keem’ on the air.

    “We got tickets to a hip hop show tonight at Emo’s Rah-Keem is headlining…”

    ::buries face in hands::

    kids these days…

  16. neemor Says:

    “Then I see another person and take out my headphone and proceed to handle it with the poop thumb. ”

    I’m playing catch-up right now, bare with me, but that line caused coffee spit-take of epic proportions.

    My computer fucking hates me right now.

  17. stitchstash Says:

    Thanks She Divides! This will be fun shopping for new picture.

    Salt n Pepa needs an honorable mention.

  18. Selector J Says:

    it makes me love Phish that much more for stepping out of the box……and putting JOY in it, by playing with artists from all differnt types of genres of music.

    Well played. ::golf clap::

    Yea at least we don’t over-obsess about bands whose members are d-bags. Looking in your direction, Noel Gallagher.

  19. neemor Says:

    Caught up.
    She Divides, nice avatar….I like.
    I posted the link as my way of ‘inviting’ newer posters to solidify their status here after a well-thought-out post. (Like it’s my job to do that….)
    What a great day of posts!
    Holger Dansk: That’s interesting, the Eminence Front thing.

    Was it MSG1 where a fan (from the green board) was holding up a *huge* 2-piece sign that said ‘Eminence Front’ in glowing neon green letters?

    I wonder if it sunk into Phish’s subconscience?

  20. Leo Weaver Says:

    ^yes, MSG1 it was…perfect view of it all night from our rear stage seats.

  21. Selector J Says:

    So who’s still waiting on their Joy Box?
    Just wondering.

  22. halcyon Says:

    @ Selector…The gallaghers are wacked. Their mouths are too big for their own good.

  23. neemor Says:

    As far as the Jay Z appearance, what you guys all mentioned is what I remember of the reactions from that time.

    Especially the women (and like-minded men) were a bit taken aback by the ‘bitches’ references, and the ‘locals’ were extremely excited and intrigued.

    I didn’t really care one way or another, but I haven’t listened to that show since.

    There is enough Phish-related fodder to wade through right now to keep me busy well past Miami….from articles to pictures to your recommendations for past shows to check out and of course Miner’s daily reviews….it’s been said before, but it is a good time to be a phan.

    Somewhat unrelated note and I hope not to open old wounds, but watching aw come up with suggestions for stitchstash-how kind that was-how clearly knowledgable he is on so many things- I was trying my damndest to recall exactly why he and I had our little falling out and (like many arguments the day after), I can’t even recall what the deal was-why the issue from my side of things.

    If I could, I’ve learned through my years that it is always best to clear the air and admit your wrongs (something I also learned through my twelve step work), I’d like to apologize for whatever happened to cause our Rift. I hope I can only learn from you and someday (if you’re willing-aw) share in some truly important and pleasant discourse….

    Sorry for the page hogging.
    I guess I’m somewhat filled with the Holiday spirit after HHood’s XMas Tree reference.

  24. BTB Says:

    Missed everything today – work is a bummer, man. Strikes and gutters.

    Anybody sign up on I was not aware you could sign in and run all your show stats n’ shit. Pretty cool FWIW. Felt like going back in time reliving some old moments.

    I thought I’d only seen 27 or so shows, but I guess I’m over 30. Is that the slap-bracelet anniversary?

  25. BTB Says:

    My Joy box is so late the band is playing a gig in my basement to make up for it!

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